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The Worst Things MCU Trolls Have Ever Done

In some distant future we can't see yet, when we're colonizing the heavens and there are more drones in the air than birds, there may come a day when a specific slice of humanity will finally realize that when they find themselves not liking what they see or hear about any particular movie, simply not seeing that movie is totally an acceptable option. Until that day comes, movie studios, celebrities, and fans will continue to suffer trolls, and the MCU may suffer them more than most. 

Marvel Studios has weathered the growing assaults of trolls ever since Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) first found himself dying in Afghanistan in 2008. Any kind of entertainment successful enough to enjoy a large fandom will need to endure trolls. They're often harmless irritants who enjoy getting under the skins of celebrities and other fans, doing nothing more controversial than spreading memes and spoiling important plot points. They can be frustrating enough but more recently—particularly since Marvel's commitment to diversity led to the undeniable and astounding successes of 2019's Captain Marvel and 2018's Black Panther—the trolls under Marvel Studio's bridge have taken on a more hateful tone. 

But trolls don't have to be alt-right extremists. They can be autograph-hungry fans or even large corporations. Curious about what we mean? Then check out some the worst trolls the MCU has dealt with. 

The trolls tried to dethrone the king

Opening weekend ticket sales for Black Panther soared over the projected $120 million domestic gross to instead grab $235 million. The film's release was hailed as a cultural watershed, and Black Panther became the first comic book superhero film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

However, if it were up to a group of hateful trolls, Black Panther would have flopped. The film was targeted by the same trolls who artificially dialed Star Wars: The Last Jedi's audience approval score on Rotten Tomatoes to a staggeringly low number. In late January 2018, the Facebook group "Down With Disney's Treatment of Franchises and its Fanboys" popped up, scheduling an event the day of Black Panther's release to distribute spoilers to fans, as well as adding damning reviews to aggregate sites like Rotten Tomatoes with the help of bots. Group members claimed Disney paid reviewers to praise Marvel films and bash DCEU films. But when the group's leader spoke to Inverse in February 2018, it was clear these weren't simply disgruntled DC fans. Among other things, the leader told Inverse "minorities... should stay that way," and that Disney was trying to shove "SJW" values down their throats. 

Their racist rants did them no favors. According to Newsweek, the group's Facebook page and event were deleted from the platform, and Rotten Tomatoes responded to the news by putting its "team of security, network and social experts" on high alert. Black Panther made history, but of course, the trolls just kept on trolling.

Spoiling the snap

Fans knew big things were going to happen in Avengers: Infinity War. They expected huge changes and major deaths. They weren't disappointed on either score. 

Unfortunately, the same trolls who targeted Black Panther knew those big changes were coming too, and they used it to their advantage. In its guide to avoiding Avengers: Infinity War spoilers, Polygon warned fans that the group that tried and failed to tank Black Panther had resurfaced on Facebook and was hosting the event "Let's Ruin Avengers: Infinity War for Disney Fanatics and SJWs," scheduled for April 25, 2018, Infinity War's release date. Once again, the group intended to review bomb the film on Rotten Tomatoesas well as spoil every plot detail they could. 

How did they do? Avengers: Infinity War's grossed $1 billion faster than any previous film. It steamed on and hit $2 billion while the movie was still in theaters—an accomplishment which, at the time, only four other films ever managed. It's opening weekend grossed $258.2 million, smashing Star Wars: The Force Awaken's record for the highest US opening weekend box office. Rotten Tomatoes certified Infinity War fresh with a critic score of 85% and an audience score of 91%. 

So no, it doesn't seem like the trolls succeeded, but that could be a biased interpretation based solely on minor considerations like how much money the movie made, how awesome it was, and how many people loved it. 

The trolls tried to ground Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel was released in theaters March 8, 2019, and by mid-February, the review bomb campaign was already beginning in earnest. According to Screen Rant, the negative "reviews" focused on Captain Marvel lead's Brie Larson's outspoken feminism. By the beginning of March, there were more calls for review bombs upon the film's release. As was the case with Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, the trolls campaign against Marvel Studios' policy of portraying women and people of color as if they were people failed. Captain Marvel was predicted to have a $100 million opening weekend, but instead the superhero blockbuster raked in a stunning $455 million.   

Not only did Captain Marvel disappoint the trolls, but it helped achieve a more long term victory. While the site said Captain Marvel's opening wasn't its primary motivation, Rotten Tomatoes announced an overhaul of its audience rating system shortly before the release and amidst numerous stories regarding the troll campaigns. Along with other changes, users could no longer leave reviews of films that hadn't been released. YouTube got into it as well, altering its search algorithm so that users searching Brie Larson's name wouldn't be brought to calls for Captain Marvel boycotts and other hateful smears.  

So by going after Captain Marvel, the trolls finally managed to effect change—the kind of change that makes it harder for trolls to be trolls.

She's seven years old, guys

The most recent example of MCU trolling is one of the most reprehensible, though this time rather than having to do with misogyny or racism, it's more about disappointed fans who were forced to endure the horrific trauma...of not getting an autograph. 

Seven-year-old Lexi Rabe plays Morgan Stark in 2019's Avengers: Endgamedaughter to Tony Stark and originator of the amazing "I love you 3000" line. While no specific examples of trolling or bullying were pointed out, in late June 2019, Lexi posted a short video on her Instagram account asking fans, "Please don't bully my family, or me." Lexi's mother Jessica wrote the caption for the video, implying that fans were getting upset with the family for not taking the time to sign autographs or take photos with them. "If you ask us for an autograph we always almost say yes," Jessica wrote, at the same time pointing out that, "Sometimes [we're] rushing from place to place stressed like everyone else to get to set on time or work."

In the video, Lexi mentions that yes, sometimes she'll be "silly," because she's "only seven-years-old." Whatever the "silly" behavior is that Lexi's bullies object to, it seems strange that fans are disappointed at the lack of perfect behavior from a girl they know as the fictional daughter of a guy like Tony Stark.

Whatever it is she did, whatever autographs she wouldn't sign...she seven-years-old, guys. Seven

Rubbing the Defenders' nose in it

At the end of November 2018, Netflix announced Daredevil was canceled. That brought the Netflix/Marvel body count up to three by the end of 2018, with Iron Fist and Luke Cage already axed. The cancellation not only disappointed Daredevil fans, but convinced them that both Punisher and Jessica Jones were not long for this world, and those fears were eventually proved to be well-founded on both counts

But even before the cancellations of Punisher and Jessica Jones were confirmed, Netflix proved that individual fans weren't the only trolls you can find on the web. 

In late December 2018, a Reddit user calling themselves Mugscroll posted a survey received via email from Netflix asking how they would feel if Marvel Netflix shows were canceled. The survey asks, "How disappointed would you be to learn that there was not going to be another season of the following series?" The survey lists a number of its Marvel shows, and under each, it gives choices ranging from "Not at all disappointed" to "Very disappointed." The picture Mugscroll posted shows questions listed for Luke Cage and Daredevil, both of which had already been canceled by Dec 2018, and Jessica Jones. Mugscroll claimed the survey also asked about Iron Fist, also already canceled, but not Punisher or Defenders

There's no word on why Netflix would mess with fans this way. Maybe Stranger Things' Gaten Matarazzo was bored with hilariously pranking people looking for jobs? Who knows?

Appropriating the king

The far-right conservative website Breitbart took an interesting approach to the release of Black Panther—an approach you might call, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em...or force them to join you."

Critics were astonished and outraged by the title of Breitbart's review: "'Black Panther' Review: The Movie's Hero Is Trump, The Villain is Black Lives Matter." The review went on to liken T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) to President Donald Trump whose beliefs, according to Breitbart, mirror Black Panther's in that "they are not based on race." The reviewer further compares Black Panther to Trump by writing that T'Challa "is big on border security" and that he "fiercely protects his country's culture from outsiders, including refugees." Apparently, the reviewer fell asleep during critical moments, such as when T'Challa brings the dying Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) to Wakanda to be healed, when he decides that Wakanda's isolation is wrong, or when he goes to the United Nations to reveal his country's secrets. Perhaps he never saw Captain America: Civil War, and so he doesn't know T'Challa allows Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) into his country, and he even agrees to keep Bucky there and treat him.

We can hardly blame the reviewer for slumbering during the film and missing critical pieces of the story. Perhaps he was thinking of other reviews where he could compare Yoda of the Star Wars films to Joseph Stalin or Josh Brolin's Thanos to Mother Theresa. 

Hating the Bridgekeeper

Long before Breitbart or the review-bombing trolls got into the act, an American white supremacist group called the Council of Conservative Citizens urged audiences to boycott 2011's Thor for the crime of casting a black man as a god. 

The December 2010 call for inaction came in response to the news that acclaimed actor Idris Elba was cast in the role of Heimdall, the guardian of Asgard's Bifrost. Accusing Marvel and Stan Lee of "viciously" attacking right-wing movements, the Council of Conservative Citizens said Elba's casting was the final straw : "Now they have taken it one further, casting a black man as a Norse deity...Marvel has now inserted social engineering into European mythology." The Guardian pointed out that, in writing about Elba, the group purposely ignored Elba's already accomplished acting career and referred to him as simply "hip-hop DJ Elba," presumably referencing work Elba did in East End London night clubs in the late '90s. 

Elba already succinctly addressed the race question earlier that year. In an interview with TV Times in April 2010, Elba mused, "Thor has a hammer that flies to him when he clicks his fingers. That's OK, but the color of my skin is wrong?"

Elba went on to appear as Heimdall in all three Thor films, 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, and 2018's Avengers: Infinity War. So it may be that the influence of the Council of Conservative Citizens' boycott has not been a concern to, well, anyone. Ever.

The trolls wants a 'boys only' club

In mid-June 2019, NPR reported that—unable to stop fans from going to see Marvel films—trolls of the intolerant variety took things a step further and altered the films themselves. An anonymous fan took a pirated copy of 2019's Avengers: Endgame and edited it to create what they call the "defeminized" version of the film. Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is completely cut out of the film, as is the crowd-pleasing moment that showed all of the surviving female heroes unite against Thanos. Any shots of male characters in the film hugging one another were taken out, as was Spider-Man (Tom Holland) receiving assistance from female heroes.

A document accompanying the edit reportedly explains the reasons for the changes. The scene in the beginning in which Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) teaches his daughter archery is cut because "young women should learn skills to become good wives and mothers and leave the fighting to men." Black Panther appears in the edit, but his role is "minimized" because "he's really not that important."

Leaving aside tiny, inconsequential questions like how exactly does Tony Stark make it back to Earth without Captain Marvel, we have yet to hear word of Marvel deciding to cancel its Avengers: Endgame home release or altering it to make it likewise "defeminized." It seems like the film's staggering and historic success—with its young women shooting arrows and all of that shameful man-hugging—speaks for itself. 

The troll, the catfish, and Endgame

In May 2019, The AV Club reported on a Reddit user calling themselves Jus10Sch with a disturbing story of troll-on-troll action. 

Jus10Sch claims that a troll—we'll call him InfinityTroll—randomly posted Avengers: Infinity War spoilers to Jus10Sch's Instagram page. Jus10Sch said that he messaged InfinityTroll, saying that while he'd played a "good prank," he'd already seen the movie...which was a lie. Jus10Sch hadn't watched Infinity War yet, and now it was all spoiled, so he wanted some revenge. His deceptively polite response sparked an apparently false friendship. Just10Sch said he and InfinityTroll "messaged each other, texted memes, talked about movies, and stuff like that" for around seven months. As Just10Sch put it, "I was just trying to get his trust."

Finally, it came time for the payoff. Just10Sch made sure to see Avengers: Endgame opening night. Just10Sch wrote that he took "plenty of pictures" of big moments, like Thanos' first death at Thor's (Chris Hemsworth) hands, the appearance of Professor Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), the death of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Stan Lee's cameo, and so on. After the film was over, he texted InfinityTroll to let him know. InfinityTroll asked him how it was, and Just10Sch sent all the pictures he had taken, "messaging plot points" with each picture. After a lot of cussing, Just10Sch never heard from InfinityTroll again. 

If Just10Sch's story is true, then while InfinityTroll arguably deserved to have the movie spoiled, the notion of starting and maintaining a false friendship for almost a year just to spoil a movie seems...extreme?

James Woods and the Alita Challenge

Some trolls aren't anonymous. Some trolls are celebrities who've worked much harder than they should have to become more famous for online trolling than their acting. Unfortunately, it seems like James Woods has become one of those trolls.

Shortly after Captain Marvel's theatrical release, The Playlist reported on a very specific strategy that Captain Marvel haters were using to force the film to bomb. Calling it the "#AlitaChallenge", Twitter trolls urged followers to see Alita: Battle Angel instead of Captain MarvelPlaylist's Kimber Myers didn't find the trolls' preference for Alita surprising, writing, "This shouldn't be an either/or situation....But despite featuring a woman warrior at its heart, Alita is a pseudo-feminist film that does little to challenge the status quo of a male-dominated industry."

Playlist posted a sample of the #AlitaChallenge tweets, and right at the top was actor James Woods. Posting a version of the "Distracted Boyfriend" meme with Captain Marvel as the girlfriend, Alita as the attractive woman walking by, and "movie-goers" as the distracted man, Woods tweeted, "When you have a choice, pick a studio that doesn't hate half its audience."

There's no way to know how much it had to do with the efforts of the #AlitaChallenge contributors, but Alita: Battle Angel earned an impressive lifetime gross of $404.9 million. Of course, Captain Marvel raked in $1.1 billion, but that's only well over twice what Alita made, so what does that even mean?